Forest fire who has destroyed Airport now officially formed last week TeaThis is the worst natural disaster of its kind that America has seen in a centuryThe death toll has now risen to 111, surpassing the number of people killed in California’s infamous Camp Fire in the summer of 2018.
Thousands of residents and tourists had to flee big Island And Maui After the fires broke out on Tuesday, August 8, Hurricane Dora’s high-speed winds ravaged the historic town of Lahaina and many other places, in some cases forcing people to wade into the ocean to escape the flames.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green has estimated that the island chain will need billions of dollars in investment to recover from the disaster, with the US Civil Air Patrol and the Maui Fire Department reporting that hundreds of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed.
Mr. Green has thanked the President Joe Biden And this Federal Emergency Management Agency So far for its support, but it is clear that recovery efforts will be considerable to restore the tropical paradise to its former glory and ensure it is better protected against future disaster.
Right now, the emphasis of the response is on putting out the fires and ensuring the safety of the public, a goal complicated by tales of looting and armed robberies taking place amid law and order breakdowns.
However, once the crisis is contained and some degree of normalcy is restored, Hawaii officials may face tough questions about the extent of the island’s preparedness for an unfolding situation.
In particular, the public will expect answers on why its warning system failed, why expert warnings were ignored and whether domestic electricity providers played any part in the disaster.
Maui is understood to have 80 outdoor sirens – which are tested monthly – to warn locals about an impending tsunami or other natural disaster. according to bbc But when the bushes caught fire, none of them made a sound, officials have confirmed.
Lahaina residents were concerned at first when they woke up without power on Tuesday morning, but were reassured when Maui County reported at about 9.55 a.m. that the surrounding forest was on fire. “100 percent vested”Only that afternoon the fire was fanned again by the winds without warning.
At a news conference on August 17, Herman Andaya, administrator of the Maui County Emergency Management Agency, said that officials decided to send emergency messages via phone, radio and television because they did not believe outdoor sirens would be useful.
Mr Andaya said, “If we had raised the siren that night, we were afraid that people would have gone to Mauka (towards the mountain).”
Mr Andaya said their outdoor sirens are commonly used for tsunamis to train residents to seek higher ground. Mr Green reiterated this at a press conference, saying that the siren is advertised as being used almost exclusively for tsunamis.
“And if that were the case, they would have gone into the fire,” Mr. Andaya said.
He added that outdoor sirens are only present on the beach, so they would be useless even for those who live on the mountain.
He also said that due to the winds and the coming fire, most people probably would not have heard the siren.
Some residents later told the media that they had received phone alerts, but it is possible that the earlier blackout may have played a role in limiting the further spread of the messages. In many cases, it was only smoke alarms in private buildings that informed them of the need to evacuate, leading to a panicked exodus that probably could have been avoided.
Mr. Green announced that the state attorney general, Anne Lopez, would launch an investigation into Maui’s emergency response policies to determine what went wrong.
However, he has largely avoided blaming human error, saying in a statement issued on Sunday: “That fire spread a mile every minute, resulting in this tragedy. A firestorm, something new to us in this age of global warming, was the ultimate cause of so many deaths.
Announcing her investigation, Ms Lopez said: “My department is committed to understanding the decisions made before and during the wildfires and to sharing the results of this review with the public.
“As we continue to support all aspects of the ongoing relief effort, now is the time to begin this process of understanding.”
“But the attorney general has launched a review of what happened to those sirens and some of the other actions that have been taken.”
Experts’ warnings ignored
Historically, Hawaii has rarely suffered from wildfires and, when they have occurred, they were usually ignited by volcanic eruptions or lightning strikes.
But Clay Traurnicht, a professor at the University of Hawaii, has been warning about the dangers posed by brush fires since at least 2014, noting that an area of the state burns every year. four times in recent decades.
Professor Traunricht attributed this increase to the invasion of non-native dry vegetation, which have been allowed to colonize former agricultural lands and deforested areas, turning grasslands into savannas which are particularly serve as ideal firewood during periods of drought.
He has described the current crisis as an inevitable consequence “benign neglect”.
His warnings were valid before when Hawaii suffered deadly wildfires caused by Hurricane Lane in August 2018 and again in 2019.
Following those developments, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s (HIEMA) 2021 risk assessment report was duly noted He: “Fires that result from another major hazard or disaster, such as a hurricane, are especially challenging.”
That same year, a Maui County report on wildfire prevention recommended An “aggressive plan” to replace the dangerous grass. It also decried the amount of funding available as “inadequate” and found the fire department’s strategic plan to lack any advice on “what can and should be done” amounts to a “significant oversight”. .
In spite of all that, there is No specific advice for how the public should react The HIEMA website provides information on wildfires, although it acknowledges their increasing frequency.
Meanwhile, the agency’s latest 2022 report rates the risk posed by fire compared to other forms of natural disaster as follows: “Less”,
So far official rebuttals to the allegations of negligence have included Hawaii Lieutenant-Governor Sylvia Luke, who said: “When we’re preparing for hurricanes, sometimes we expect rain, sometimes we expect floods.” We never thought that a hurricane in this state, which had no effect on our islands, would cause this type of wildfire.”
Could downed power lines be to blame?
Another local entity facing criticism over the disaster is Hawaiian Electric—which supplies 95 percent of the state’s electricity—which is the subject of a class-action lawsuit brought by three law firms alleging that the collapse Power lines played a role in the inferno on Maui. ,
Complaint, The recipient spectrum newsclaims that the utility “inexplicably kept its power lines active during anticipated high fire hazard conditions”.
It argues that national weather service warned on Friday 4 August that Hawaii could experience “indirect effects” from Hurricane Dora, including “strong and gusty trade winds” and “dry weather and high fire risk”, issuing a red flag warning Said to have been allegedly neglected by Hawaii Electric. react to.
A spokeswoman for Hawaiian Electric declined to comment on the lawsuit in a statement, saying the company does not discuss pending litigation as a policy.
“Our immediate focus is on supporting emergency response efforts on Maui and restoring power to our customers and communities as quickly as possible,” he added.
“At this early stage, the cause of the fire has not been determined and we will be working closely with the state and county as they conduct their reviews.”